Armed Forces Day
It is an honour to speak here today as the duly elected Member of Parliament for Easington and I am delighted to declare my support for our Forces, serving personnel and veterans and their families on Armed Forces Day. It is wonderful that we have a day that recognises the hard work, bravery and commitment of the forces community but of course we need to be supporting them all year round and the Governments must ensure that our Armed Forces are getting a fair deal on pay, welfare, housing and services.
This year marks two important anniversaries, the 35th anniversary of the Falklands War and the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele. The latter conflict saw over 250,000 British soldiers killed and of course we should never forget the 225 British soldiers and airmen that lost their lives while serving their country in the South Atlantic Falklands conflict. The contributions of these brave men and women must be remembered which is why days and events like this one today are absolutely paramount.
I often think MPs in the Houses of Parliament are too quick to put our servicemen and women in harms way without ensuring they have the necessary and appropriate equipment for the job they are asked to do. We must also ensure that when our men and women come back from active duty they are properly supported and that includes ongoing medical care and supported housing where there needs requirement, including when they leave the services. It is an disgrace that as many as 9000 veterans are homeless and living on the streets. Veterans are a huge part if the Forces community and I am backing the proposal of several measures to support service personal in the transition back to civilian life and to legislate against discrimination against veterans. No-one, man or woman, should face discrimination for their service in our Armed Forces.
Although we have a great team of dedicated volunteers locally, I am supporting the calls for the creation of a Veterans’ Register. This would mean no ex-servicemen or women coming out of the services fall through the net and no-one is left to fend for themselves. The problems faced by veterans should not be underestimated; suffering from PTSD and other medical problems due to their service can be particularly hard and we should work together to support them after their outstanding work for our country. I also support proposals for a Veterans’ Interview Programme which is designed to work with employers and businesses to guarantee a job interview for ex-service personnel. I further offer my support for the Homes Fit for Heroes initiative which will offer free home insulation to disabled veterans and will continue to encourage business, local authorities and community groups to sign up to the Armed Forces Covenant. We can work together to welcome back our servicemen and women and treat them with the respect they deserve.
The Armed Forces Pay Review Body must be allowed to make recommendations on pay rises for our Armed Forces. There has been additional pressure put on the incomes of Forces families from increases in National Insurance, changes in tax credits and increases in rental charges for those in Service Family Accommodation. It is vital that a career in the Armed Forces continues to provide for those in it and that it is attractive to our best and brightest. Crucial to this is ensuring that our Service Personnel are properly paid for the work they do. We have seen historically high outflow rates and recruitment and retention problems in specific vocations, particularly pilots and engineers. We need to re-examine retention and recruitment policies in order to combat this. We must work together to push for a better deal for those in our Armed Forces.
Finally, I want to praise the hard work of our councillors like Dave McKenna and his team, it is easy to forget how time consuming and difficult it is to organise an event for Armed Forces Day. Without their efforts Armed Forces Day simply wouldn’t be possible; so I thank them for that.
Thank you for your kind attention.